Your visit with us was much too short, Roger.

This past weekend, the theater lost one of its finest actors and finest gentlemen when Roger Rees passed away at the all too early age of 71.

Most people know Roger from his work on Cheers (just the thought of him as the foppish Robin Colcord makes me crack up to this day), but it was the stage where he made his home, winning a Tony for his role in the epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and getting nominations for Shadowlands, Six Degrees of Separation, Indiscretions and as the co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher.

And I knew him from his work on this season’s The Visit.

“Knew him” is a bit of an exaggeration actually.  The truth is I didn’t know him all that well.  That’s why at the meet and greet on the very first day of rehearsal I walked up to him and said, “Hello, Roger, my name is Ken Davenport and I just wanted to . . . ”

“KEN,” He practically screamed, “I’m so happy to meet you!  I can’t believe we haven’t met before,” and he pulled me in for a hug.  Yeah.  Me, hugging Robin Colcord.

We chatted a bit about the show, and he told me how excited he was for it, and how he was so in love with the story . . . and how thankful he was that it was getting its shot on Broadway.  “This is what real theater is about, Ken.  This is what real theater is about,” he repeated.

I saw him from time to time at and around the show.  But that’s it.  No dinners or lunches or texts or anything.

But I tell you, in that brief exchange, I got a glimpse into the heart of Roger Rees.  And what a beautiful place it was.

Roger, you are what real theater is about.  You are.

And you’ll be missed.

 

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50 Years of Pulitzer Prize for Drama Winners: A By The Numbers Infographic

My staff and I got into a conversation at our last Fun Food Friday (every so often, we order pizza on Fridays and shoot the sausage and peppers) all about the Pulitzer.

What kind of shows win the Pulitzer?  Did shows have to play on Broadway to win the Prize?  Who wrote them?  Is there a trend that we could discover that could help all those writers out there that want the coveted award?

And when there are this many questions, that can only mean one thing!

INFOGRAPHIC!!!

We googled like crazy and crunched up the data and out came the infographic below all about the most coveted prize in Drama.

And now I’m going to shut up and let the infographic speak for itself.

Enjoy everything you ever wanted to know about the last 50 Years of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama!

 

50 Years of Pulitzer Winners (6)

 

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My Predictions for the 2014-15 Tony Nominations.

There are a lot of people that are going to have a sleepless weekend.  How can you relax if you’re just days away from finding out if you’re gonna get nominated for a Tony Award?  These little trophies can change career trajectories, make a difference between recoupment and not, or fetch a good bundle on eBay later on in life if you’re hard up for some cash.

I’ve been to two opening nights this week, and all that anyone could talk about at the party was who will and who won’t be nominated for the big four awards (Best Musical, Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Revival of a Musical).  No two people I talked to had the same predictions.  The sheer volume of potential nominees this season makes this one of the toughest years to predict!

But based on all the scuttlebutt I’ve heard, and my own analysis, I came up with a set of educated guesses.  Are you ready for ’em?

Here’s what I think will be nominated, in no particular order:

BEST MUSICAL

1.  Fun Home – I haven’t even seen it yet (I’m going tonight), but the reviews and the degree of difficulty musicalizing this kind of material makes it a shoe-in for a nom.  Nominators love when creative teams take bold, artistic chances, and Fun Home is that for sure.

2.  Something Rotten! – It’s a musical about the birth of the musical and features a show-stoppin’ song called, “A Musical!”  You can’t get more Broadway than that.  Consider it nominated.

3.  An American In Paris – High grosses + strong word of mouth + “American” in the title = Tony Nomination for Best Musical.

4.  The Visit – Kander, Ebb, Rivera, McNally.  You’d think that such legendary artists would serve up something more “standard” in form and substance at this stage in their career.  But no, these bold facers helped push the envelope fifty years ago, and they continue to do it today.  The nominators will deservedly thank them for their careers, and their continued devotion to our Art form (capitalization intended).

(If there’s a 5th (new rules allow for a 5th if there a 5th show gets within 3 votes of the 4th), and I don’t think there will be, look for Finding Neverland to squeeze in.)

 

BEST PLAY

1.  Hand to God – I don’t care if you get offended by a puppet that spouts more profanity than an ESPN reporter whose car gets towed, you can’t deny that H2G is one of the freshest American plays in a long time.  And the nominators will reward this new voice.  Even if that new voice says #$%@ a lot.

2.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time – In addition to being a fantastic play, it’s also a fantastic Broadway play, with a physical production that rivals some musicals!  Its topical topic (children battling autism) makes it an easy choice for nominators.

3.  Wolf Hall – It’s an epic, two parter, costume drama from the RSC.  It just feels like a show that should be nominated, shouldn’t it?

4.  The Audience – Helen Mirren’s performance helps this play secure the final spot.  And yeah, I know, if you haven’t figured it out yet, three of the four of my predictions for this category are from overseas.  We’ve got trouble, my friends, right here in the 13 original colonies.

(The big shocking snub here looks to be Disgraced, which won the Pulitzer, but whose abbreviated run on Broadway may have hurt its chances for a Tony.)

 

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

1.  On the Twentieth Century – Not a lot of the people I spoke to thought this was going to be good.  Then they saw it.  And they loved it.  Those low expectations and a show that delivers will get another nomination for the Roundabout.

2.  The King and I – Does anyone do a revival of R&H like Lincoln Center?  Nope.  Consider it nominated.

3.  On the Town – People forget how On the Town got across the board raves.  The nominators won’t.  This was another show that I think a lot of people expected to be dusty, but the team blew the dust off, and found sexy underneath.  Nominated!

4.  Side Show – All the freak fans will get their wish, when this dark horse is announced last as the fourth nominated revival.

 

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY

1.  Skylight – An agent I spoke to recently who didn’t have a single client in the show (but was stalking four people on the production) said this was the most thrilling piece of theater he had seen in a decade.  Expect a nom when industry folks are that passionate.

2.  You Can’t Take It With You – Yet another show that secures a nomination thanks to “I expected to be bored” syndrome.  A revival works when it is still relevant today.  And this one did just that.

3.  The Elephant Man – What people on the outside don’t know is that Elephant Man wasn’t selling like gangbusters before it opened.  Then people got a sight of the Scott Ellis production and Bradley Cooper’s performance and were super impressed, and sales skyrocketed.  Nominators were equally impressed.

4. It’s Only A Play – It’s one of the longest running revivals of a play in recent Broadway history.  It has extended twice, thanks to its company of big stars who love the theater.  It’s about what we do, and that will ring true with the nominators.

 

So there you have it!  My predictions for this year’s noms.  So, now I’ve shown you mine.  You show me yours.

Comment your predictions below!!!

 

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The Trends of Ten Years of New York Times Broadway Reviews. An infographic.

What’s cool about creating stuff, is that sometimes you make something for one specific purpose . . . and then you find it has a whole other purpose later on.

It happens in the pharmaceutical industry all the time.  Did you know Viagra was originally made to treat hypertension?  Imagine the surprise when they conducted those clinical trials!

This phenomenon just happened to me.  And I think you’re going to get as excited as those Viagra patients when you see the results.

Here’s what happened:

About five years ago, I started the Broadway review website DidHeLikeIt.com because I wanted to be the first to know whether the New York Times liked a show or not, without actually reading the review.  So we created this fun thumbs-up/thumbs-down guide and started emailing our subscribers a new review the moment a new show opened.  This site was an instant hit, got a ton of subscribers, and we recently released an app!

And a few weeks ago, after five years of running the site, and after filling out our archives to go further back, I realized that I was sitting on the largest bank of New York Times review data on the web (other than the Times themselves), and my data was also cataloged in a way (positive review, negative review, mixed review) that could be quantified.

Yeah, you see where I’m going, don’t you?

My mind instantly started spinning when I realized what I was sitting on!  Just think about the kind of things we could learn from analyzing that data.  You know, things like . . .

  • Everyone thinks the New York Times hates everything.  But what percentage of Broadway shows get positive reviews versus negative reviews?
  • Are the critics getting tougher over time, or are they more forgiving?
  • Do reviews affect recoupment?
  • Who gets better reviews . . . Sondheim or Mamet?
  • Are there theaters that get more positive reviews than other theaters?
  • If I’m producing a revival of a play, which critic is more likely to give it a positive review, Ben Brantley or Charles Isherwood?

So I put my infographic creatin’ assistant, Dylan, on counting up all the positive, negative and mixed reviews over the last ten years and putting it in an infographic, which I’ve pasted below, sponsored by DidHeLikeIt.com.

Ok, ok, I’m going to shut up now because I know you want to get to that data.  I’ll admit, it’s pretty hot.

Enjoy the infographic . . . share it and tweet it.  You know the drill.  Because the more people that read it, the better our industry will be.

Did They Like It- (2)

 

 

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Are we experiencing another British invasion?

I don’t know about you, but it feels like everywhere I look this Broadway season, someone is talking with a British accent.

We’ve got Curious Incident and Queen Elizabeth and that two-parter Wolf Hall to name just a few of the tea and crumpet crews that have landed on our shores this year.

So is it just me, or are the British really coming, and coming, and coming?

As much as I like to go with my gut, I like to go with the data even more, so I put my trusty assistant Dylan on the task of sorting through the last 20 years of new Broadway productions to see what the stats revealed.  (Since Dylan got a mention in the NY Post when she did some research for me on Broadway Investing, she was more than happy to dig into the archives – that and the fact that she works for me, so she kinda has to.)

We’ve prepared three graphs based on what we learned, which are below.  They are:

  • The total percent of new UK imports on Broadway over the past 20 years
  • The percent of new UK play imports over the last 20 years
  • The percent of new UK musical imports over the last 20 years

Before you go peeking at the graphs . . . pull out a piece of paper.  Come on, you know what paper looks like, don’t you?  Now, write down your guess for what each of the above %s will be.  Go on.  And then next to each percentage, draw an arrow.  Up, down, or flat.  Guess what the trend will be.

Got it?

Good.

Now let’s see if you were right.  Here are the three graphs.

 

all shows

plays

musicals

 

How’d you do?

Now how did I do?

Well, I was was right.  Sort of.  It is feelin’ blimey this year, because we haven’t had this many imports since 2007.  But it’s not so bollocks as it was in 1998 when almost 1/4 of the new shows on Broadway were from across the pond.

I’m definitely going to rerun this graph again next year.  Because, frankly, I’m concerned, and I’ll go out on a tree branch and predict that next year we will see more British imports than we’ve seen in the last two decades.

Why would that concern me?  After all, great theater is great theater, no matter where it comes from, right?

Well, it’s hard to keep our status as the theater capital of the world if more and more shows don’t start here.

And, more importantly, with the current theater crunch, more British imports mean less American writers get their shows on.

I’m really not an anti-British guy, by the way.   I love it there, and so much of their work is outstanding.  I just want to make sure our guys get their shots too.

Tune in next year, same time, same blog, to see if my prediction comes true.

 

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